Hersheypark will be spending millions to build a new entrance, what other theme parks could use substantial make-overs for their front gates?Now that
A park's entrance provides its first impression to guests. Unfortunately, some parks fail to start their guests' days off right with an entrance that provides both easy access and inspiring views. A bad front entry sets a poor tone for what ought to be an amazing day.
That's why most parks keep tweaking their entryways. Ever seen an old photo of Disneyland's entrance? Yes, the Main Street train station and Mickey floral display are there... but so is an ugly chain link fence to keep non-paying visitors out of the park.
Disney spent a lot more money upgrading the entrance to Disney California Adventure in 2012. The original entryway to Disneyland's second gate was okay, from an operations perspective. It did the job, and people enjoyed taking pictures with the CALIFORNIA letters in front. But the style was all wrong for a Disney theme park. Today, with its Pan Pacific Auditorium-inspired gates (duped from Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida) and its 1920s Los Angeles "Main Street," the DCA entrance sets a much more enticing scene for a greatly improved park.
SeaWorld in San Diego changed its entry earlier this decade, too. With a wave sculpture flowing over the entryway, this plaza is unmistakably "SeaWorld." A welcoming collection of touch pools just inside the entry reinforces the theme of a ocean-focused playground where education is as much on the program as having a good time.
So what other theme parks need to upgrade their entryways? Here are three suggestions:
Busch Gardens suffers the same issue that Hersheypark has — its entrance lies at the end of a relatively narrow, winding path. There's no grand vista. No Instagram-worthy weenie. No sense of "place." It's just a trail to the turnstiles, with no big visual reward at the end. Busch Gardens compounds the problem with a steep elevation grade, making pushing strollers a grind. SeaWorld did a good job with tweaking its entrance in Orlando and a great job with San Diego. Now, perhaps it can turns its design attention to the Busch Gardens parks, starting with this missed potential in Virginia.
The park entrance itself is fine — amazing, really. With clean views of the globe, front gate, and even a glimpse of Hogwarts Castle behind them, Universal Studios Hollywood offers one of the most photogenic entryways in the business. So what's the problem?
Getting there. To preserve that open plaza around the globe and front gate, Universal pushed its security screening to the plaza's edge. Therefore, fans entering the park from CityWalk must hang a hard left when they reach the plaza, then walk a tight path all the way around the curving security checkpoints before doubling back into the screening area. I get why Universal did this. If it placed the checkpoint at the point where CityWalk runs into the entrance plaza, the queues for security would back into CityWalk, creating a crowd control mess. If it put the checkpoints in front of the gates, the lines of waiting guests in the morning would destroy the views around the globe. Putting the checkpoints were they did allows Universal to keep them out of photo view and to keep the waiting crowd out of CityWalk. And even the long walk helps distribute the crowd, as people who are walking in a queue are less frustrated than those standing still in one, since at least they are moving.
But that long walk just makes the whole thing feel like a poorly designed, unnecessarily inconvenient mess. At least Universal does open the plaza and move the checkpoints directly in front of the admission turnstiles later in the day, when the lines evaporate.
One of the greatest weenies in theme park history deserves better framing that Disney has given it. Remove the tomb-like "Leave a Legacy" slabs and restore the fountain's clear sculpture and I'd give Disney a passing grade for at least restoring the entryway view of Spaceship Earth to its original form. But Disney could do even better than that.
Build the hotel that Disney has planned for the park's entry, and hundreds of guests each night could have the most amazing view ever outside their windows. The right design could help better frame Spaceship Earth for guests approaching and just entering the park, as well. But mostly, Disney just really, really needs to tear down Leave a Legacy as soon as it can, so that people stop wondering why they are walking through a graveyard on their way into a theme park.
Which parks' entryways would you like to see get a design upgrade, and why?Tweet
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